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The Cheltenham Zero partnership – Helping our Borough get to Carbon Neutrality by Cllr Max Wilkinson

March 6, 2021 7:46 PM
By Cllr Max Wilkinson in GLD Challenge magazine 2020-21

The Cheltenham Zero partnership - Helping our Borough get to Carbon Neutrality by Cllr Max Wilkinson

How should we lead behaviour change to get our local areas to carbon neutrality?

In Cheltenham - just like many other places - our work was delayed by Covid. After publishing the Carbon Neutral Cheltenham report, we had stalled.

In September last year, I was appointed to a new cabinet post charged with turbocharging our work.

The challenges at district level are clear. The shortage of resources and powers is acute.

That shouldn't stop us becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030 (one element of our work), but it means the target for the wider borough (the other key part) will be difficult to achieve.

We know support for environmental initiatives is increasing in the public, private and third sectors. But bringing them together is going to be a huge challenge. That's why we have pursued an innovative partnership approach called Cheltenham Zero.

We are empowering and resourcing the third sector, via our friends at Vision 21. This enables us to draw in more support and expertise outside of the limits of a council-only approach

. Those limits extend beyond simply money and resourcing: community-led initiatives backed by the council are far more likely to be widely embraced than directives from men in offices (and it is usually men, isn't it?).

By empowering others and taking a collaborative approach, we aim to setup structures to cut through bureaucracy, drive forward challenging projects and, crucially, bring business and large organisations like the local NHS along with us.

Our work started well with an over-subscribed online conference attended by more than 120 people representing organisations from hospitality, construction and sport, as well as many local campaign groups.

Bringing the campaigners and the corporate world together around shared values will enable individuals to find common ground and collaborate on big projects in a way that has not happened before.

We hope to formally launch the partnership with dozens of organisations signing up next month.

In time, we hope this approach will help us deliver on projects ranging from energy and transport to planning and nature. I know Cheltenham people want to help us achieve our goal and I'm determined that we will all work together to make it happen.